What it’s like to ski on Copenhill, Copenhagen’s urban slope on top of a super-green power plant

It’s not all plain sailing, but a visit to Denmark’s most talked-about new building is well worth the bruises, says Jimi Famurewa

Tuesday 10 December 2019 22:05
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Copenhill is one of the city's most innovative projects
Copenhill is one of the city's most innovative projects

Shut your eyes and it could be any ski resort in the world: the crisp, cold air, the clomping passage of ski boots and the occasional crunching hiss of snowboarders and skiers making their way down a hard-packed piste. But open them, look around, and it is a very different story. I may have a snowboard strapped to my feet, as I’m jerked upward by a button lift, but I am nearing the summit of a sleek, recently completed metal building rather than a craggy mountain that has stood tall for millennia.

There are glinting factory turrets puffing out clouds of steam beside me; the surrounding vista is of inner-city Copenhagen; my fellow snowboarders and skiers are in jeans (observed by curious tourists peering out from a viewing platform); and, in lieu of actual snow, a grass-tufted river of bristled green plastic snakes all the way down this 400m artificial peak. It is more than a little surreal – like a Philip K Dick futurescape crossed with the Teletubbies. And as I gracelessly push off from the lift, clip my other foot into the bindings, and promptly fall over onto the hard, palm-stinging surface, I am reminded that one of the underreported benefits of pelting down a mountainside in an Alpine resort is that you’re mostly guaranteed a relatively soft landing.

This, for the uninitiated, is Amager Bakke or Copenhill: a spanking new waste-to-energy incinerator that is also home to the Danish capital’s much-publicised first urban ski slope. Initially mooted almost a decade ago and dreamt up by buccaneering starchitect Bjarke Ingels, it is an audacious, £531m act of so-called “hedonistic sustainability”. The sweeping, sloped facility – capable of converting rubbish into electricity and district heating for 150,000 homes annually – is part of a bold broader plan to make Copenhagen a carbon-neutral city by 2025. As borne out by the ensuing mountain of breathless global press (in 2011, Time magazine named it as one of the most innovative ideas of the year), it is, in pure design and architectural terms, a fairly irresistible proposition.

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